This article first appeared on RTL.de
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced in its weekly report that three children and adolescents had died in Saxony-Anhalt at the turn of the year due to bacterial infections. All of the deceased showed symptoms of bacterial meningitis. Influenza A viruses were also detected.
In two cases, the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes was detected in the blood. This can trigger scarlet fever, tonsillitis (tonsillitis), necrotizing fasciitis or erysipelas, among other things.
The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus was found in the blood of the last person affected. The RKI assumes that all three of the deceased were first infected with influenza A and then contracted a second bacterial infection.
The RKI sees this development as a warning signal and advises doctors to test more often for bacterial pathogens: "Secondary infections caused by bacterial pathogens such as group A streptococci, pneumococci, Haemophilus influenzae and Staphylococcus aureus also occur particularly during the influenza and cold season and should be considered in addition to meningococci in the differential diagnosis of serious bacterial infections such as meningitis or sepsis." It is assumed that a primary infection with, for example, influenza viruses increases the risk of a severe course of the disease with another bacterial infection.
dr Specht assumes that the reason why secondary infections occur more frequently could be due to the very serious flu epidemic on the one hand and on the other hand that we are more susceptible to infections of all kinds after Corona. Keyword: rebound effect. "One can only hope that this will subside again. In principle, many bacterial infections could be treated well if they were discovered early and then the right antibiotic selected. The problem arises when too much time has passed and the bacteria are already there can rage in the body and then there can be long-term complications. Or death, as in the current cases."
The doctor rated the three cases as "particularly tragic". If a real influenza is followed by another bacterial infection, that's a problem: "The organism is then already weakened and the bacteria can attach more easily and penetrate the body. That must have happened here. And then these bacteria have it too still managed to get to the meninges, which then became inflamed." Meningitis ensued, which ultimately ended fatally.
Such a secondary or superinfection is so insidious because it is difficult to interpret the symptoms: “First of all, you make a diagnosis, for example a viral infection and in these cases influenza. That then explains many of the symptoms If there are other symptoms that fit, one is of course inclined to attribute them to influenza." It is only in the rarest of cases that it is actually an extra infection, bacteria that have settled on top of it. "It's easy to overlook that. You always have to be very, very vigilant and do tests," says the doctor.
"Bacterial secondary infections probably occur more frequently than is known. But some of them are already recognizable, for example in the mouth and throat area. But you often have to take a swab to be on the safe side," says Dr. Woodpecker.
Unfortunately, however, no clear line can be drawn that one can say that with these specific viral infections it is always necessary to check whether a superinfection could be present. Because: "Most virus infections stay for themselves." His advice: "If symptoms cannot be explained by the original disease, the initial diagnosis, then that could be an indication that you have to take a closer look." Likewise if symptoms persist for a long time and no improvement occurs. "That's always a reason to see the doctor again."